Harper Collins/Balzer + Bray. Jan. 2023. 448p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063057838.
Gr 7 Up–Arnett delivers a rich fantasy world with plenty of action. Mars Darksvane is an accomplished mercenary held in bondage to the crime boss Una Almadòttra, who rescued him from poverty as a child. His legendary status as “The Shadow Fox” comes from his secret ability to directly channel the magic which permeates Riven. Magic, however, also exists in the form of Ice, a toxic substance that is mined and tightly controlled by nine clans (kiths). Mars receives a contract to protect Fura Torvald, the daughter of a kith lord he killed. Fura doesn’t know Mars’s role in her father’s death, and he must hide this fact from her while posing as her beloved. He’s also secretly tasked to steal her father’s work on a formula known as The Primer, which has the power to destroy Ice completely. Fura wants to benefit all of Riven by destroying Ice at its source, while her rivals want to steal it for personal gain. While they start at cross purposes, Mars and Fura eventually team up to a common goal and face down the threats arrayed against them. Arnett builds a consistent and vivid world, and the plot contains some good twists and tension given characters’ secret agendas. But fantasy veterans will recognize a lot of familiar and predictable tropes, with a tidy and somewhat unsatisfying ending.
VERDICT Recommended for larger collections with a strong fantasy readership.

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